Create and manage policies to enforce compliance

Understanding how to create and manage policies in Azure is important for staying compliant with your corporate standards and service level agreements. In this tutorial, you learn to use Azure Policy to do some of the more common tasks related to creating, assigning, and managing policies across your organization, such as:

  • Assign a policy to enforce a condition for resources you create in the future
  • Create and assign an initiative definition to track compliance for multiple resources
  • Resolve a non-compliant or denied resource
  • Implement a new policy across an organization

If you would like to assign a policy to identify the current compliance state of your existing resources, the quickstart articles go over how to do so. If you don't have an Azure subscription, create a free account before you begin.

Assign a policy

The first step in enforcing compliance with Azure Policy is to assign a policy definition. A policy definition defines under what condition a policy is enforced and what effect to take. In this example, assign a built-in policy definition, called Require SQL Server version 12.0, to enforce the condition that all SQL Server databases must be v12.0 to be compliant.

  1. Launch the Azure Policy service in the Azure portal by clicking All services, then searching for and selecting Policy.

    Search for policy

  2. Select Assignments on the left side of the Azure Policy page. An assignment is a policy that has been assigned to take place within a specific scope.

    Select assignments

  3. Select Assign Policy from the top of the Policy - Assignments page.

    Assign a policy definition

  4. On the Assign Policy page, select the Scope by clicking the ellipsis and selecting either a management group or subscription. Optionally, select a resource group. A scope determines what resources or grouping of resources the policy assignment gets enforced on. Then click Select at the bottom of the Scope page.

    This example uses the Contoso subscription. Your subscription will differ.

  5. Resources can be excluded based on the Scope. Exclusions start at one level lower than the level of the Scope. Exclusions are optional, so leave it blank for now.

  6. Select the Policy definition ellipsis to open the list of available definitions. You can filter the policy definition Type to Built-in to view all and read their descriptions.

  7. Select Require SQL Server version 12.0. If you can't find it right away, type require sql server into the search box and then press ENTER or click out of the search box. Click Select at the bottom of the Available Definitions page once you have found and selected the policy definition.

    Locate a policy

  8. The Assignment name is automatically populated with the policy name you selected, but you can change it. For this example, leave Require SQL Server version 12.0. You can also add an optional Description. The description provides details about this policy assignment. Assigned by is automatically filled based on who is logged in. This field is optional, so custom values can be entered.

  9. Leave Create a Managed Identity unchecked. This box must be checked when the policy or initiative being assigned includes a policy with the deployIfNotExists effect. As the policy used for this tutorial doesn't, leave it blank. For more information, see managed identities and how remediation security works.

  10. Click Assign.

Implement a new custom policy

Now that you've assigned a built-in policy definition, you can do more with Azure Policy. Next, create a new custom policy to save costs by validating that VMs created in your environment can't be in the G series. This way, every time a user in your organization tries to create VM in the G series, the request is denied.

  1. Select Definitions under Authoring in the left side of the Azure Policy page.

    Definition under authoring

  2. Select + Policy definition at the top of the page. This button opens to the Policy definition page.

  3. Enter the following information:

    • The management group or subscription in which the policy definition is saved. Select by using the ellipsis on Definition location.

      Note

      If you plan to apply this policy definition to multiple subscriptions, the location must be a management group that contains the subscriptions you assign the policy to. The same is true for an initiative definition.

    • The name of the policy definition - Require VM SKUs smaller than the G series

    • The description of what the policy definition is intended to do – This policy definition enforces that all VMs created in this scope have SKUs smaller than the G series to reduce cost.
    • Choose from existing options (such as Compute), or create a new category for this policy definition.
    • Copy the following JSON code and then update it for your needs with:

      • The policy parameters.
      • The policy rules/conditions, in this case – VM SKU size equal to G series
      • The policy effect, in this case – Deny.

      Here's what the JSON should look like. Paste your revised code into the Azure portal.

      {
         "policyRule": {
             "if": {
                 "allOf": [{
                         "field": "type",
                         "equals": "Microsoft.Compute/virtualMachines"
                     },
                     {
                         "field": "Microsoft.Compute/virtualMachines/sku.name",
                         "like": "Standard_G*"
                     }
                 ]
             },
             "then": {
                 "effect": "deny"
             }
         }
      }
      

      The field property in the policy rule must be one of the following values: Name, Type, Location, Tags, or an alias. An example of an alias might be "Microsoft.Compute/VirtualMachines/Size".

      To view more Azure policy samples, see Azure Policy samples.

  4. Select Save.

Create a policy definition with REST API

You can create a policy with the REST API for Policy Definitions. The REST API enables you to create and delete policy definitions, and get information about existing definitions. To create a policy definition, use the following example:

PUT https://management.azure.com/subscriptions/{subscriptionId}/providers/Microsoft.authorization/policydefinitions/{policyDefinitionName}?api-version={api-version}

Include a request body similar to the following example:

{
    "properties": {
        "parameters": {
            "allowedLocations": {
                "type": "array",
                "metadata": {
                    "description": "The list of locations that can be specified when deploying resources",
                    "strongType": "location",
                    "displayName": "Allowed locations"
                }
            }
        },
        "displayName": "Allowed locations",
        "description": "This policy enables you to restrict the locations your organization can specify when deploying resources.",
        "policyRule": {
            "if": {
                "not": {
                    "field": "location",
                    "in": "[parameters('allowedLocations')]"
                }
            },
            "then": {
                "effect": "deny"
            }
        }
    }
}

Create a policy definition with PowerShell

Before proceeding with the PowerShell example, make sure you've installed the latest version of Azure PowerShell. Policy parameters were added in version 3.6.0. If you have an earlier version, the examples return an error indicating the parameter can't be found.

You can create a policy definition using the New-AzureRmPolicyDefinition cmdlet.

To create a policy definition from a file, pass the path to the file. For an external file, use the following example:

$definition = New-AzureRmPolicyDefinition `
    -Name 'denyCoolTiering' `
    -DisplayName 'Deny cool access tiering for storage' `
    -Policy 'https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Azure/azure-policy-samples/master/samples/Storage/storage-account-access-tier/azurepolicy.rules.json'

For a local file use, use the following example:

$definition = New-AzureRmPolicyDefinition `
    -Name 'denyCoolTiering' `
    -Description 'Deny cool access tiering for storage' `
    -Policy 'c:\policies\coolAccessTier.json'

To create a policy definition with an inline rule, use the following example:

$definition = New-AzureRmPolicyDefinition -Name 'denyCoolTiering' -Description 'Deny cool access tiering for storage' -Policy '{
    "if": {
        "allOf": [{
                "field": "type",
                "equals": "Microsoft.Storage/storageAccounts"
            },
            {
                "field": "kind",
                "equals": "BlobStorage"
            },
            {
                "field": "Microsoft.Storage/storageAccounts/accessTier",
                "equals": "cool"
            }
        ]
    },
    "then": {
        "effect": "deny"
    }
}'

The output is stored in a $definition object, which is used during policy assignment. The following example creates a policy definition that includes parameters:

$policy = '{
    "if": {
        "allOf": [{
                "field": "type",
                "equals": "Microsoft.Storage/storageAccounts"
            },
            {
                "not": {
                    "field": "location",
                    "in": "[parameters(''allowedLocations'')]"
                }
            }
        ]
    },
    "then": {
        "effect": "Deny"
    }
}'

$parameters = '{
    "allowedLocations": {
        "type": "array",
        "metadata": {
            "description": "The list of locations that can be specified when deploying storage accounts.",
            "strongType": "location",
            "displayName": "Allowed locations"
        }
    }
}'

$definition = New-AzureRmPolicyDefinition -Name 'storageLocations' -Description 'Policy to specify locations for storage accounts.' -Policy $policy -Parameter $parameters

View policy definitions with PowerShell

To see all policy definitions in your subscription, use the following command:

Get-AzureRmPolicyDefinition

It returns all available policy definitions, including built-in policies. Each policy is returned in the following format:

Name               : e56962a6-4747-49cd-b67b-bf8b01975c4c
ResourceId         : /providers/Microsoft.Authorization/policyDefinitions/e56962a6-4747-49cd-b67b-bf8b01975c4c
ResourceName       : e56962a6-4747-49cd-b67b-bf8b01975c4c
ResourceType       : Microsoft.Authorization/policyDefinitions
Properties         : @{displayName=Allowed locations; policyType=BuiltIn; description=This policy enables you to
                     restrict the locations your organization can specify when deploying resources. Use to enforce
                     your geo-compliance requirements.; parameters=; policyRule=}
PolicyDefinitionId : /providers/Microsoft.Authorization/policyDefinitions/e56962a6-4747-49cd-b67b-bf8b01975c4c

Create a policy definition with Azure CLI

You can create a policy definition using Azure CLI with the policy definition command. To create a policy definition with an inline rule, use the following example:

az policy definition create --name 'denyCoolTiering' --description 'Deny cool access tiering for storage' --rules '{
    "if": {
        "allOf": [{
                "field": "type",
                "equals": "Microsoft.Storage/storageAccounts"
            },
            {
                "field": "kind",
                "equals": "BlobStorage"
            },
            {
                "field": "Microsoft.Storage/storageAccounts/accessTier",
                "equals": "cool"
            }
        ]
    },
    "then": {
        "effect": "deny"
    }
}'

View policy definitions with Azure CLI

To see all policy definitions in your subscription, use the following command:

az policy definition list

It returns all available policy definitions, including built-in policies. Each policy is returned in the following format:

{
    "description": "This policy enables you to restrict the locations your organization can specify when deploying resources. Use to enforce your geo-compliance requirements.",
    "displayName": "Allowed locations",
    "id": "/providers/Microsoft.Authorization/policyDefinitions/e56962a6-4747-49cd-b67b-bf8b01975c4c",
    "name": "e56962a6-4747-49cd-b67b-bf8b01975c4c",
    "policyRule": {
        "if": {
            "not": {
                "field": "location",
                "in": "[parameters('listOfAllowedLocations')]"
            }
        },
        "then": {
            "effect": "Deny"
        }
    },
    "policyType": "BuiltIn"
}

Create and assign an initiative definition

With an initiative definition, you can group several policy definitions to achieve one overarching goal. You create an initiative definition to validate that resources within the scope of the definition stay compliant with the policy definitions that make up the initiative definition. For more information about initiative definitions, see Azure Policy overview.

Create an initiative definition

  1. Select Definitions under Authoring in the left side of the Azure Policy page.

    Select definitions

  2. Select + Initiative Definition at the top of the page to open the Initiative definition page.

    Initiative definition

  3. Use the Definition location ellipsis to select a management group or subscription to store the definition. If the previous page was scoped to a single management group or subscription, Definition location is automatically populated.

  4. Enter the Name and Description of the initiative.

    This example validates that resources are in compliance with policy definitions about getting secure. Name the initiative Get Secure and set the description as: This initiative has been created to handle all policy definitions associated with securing resources.

  5. For Category, choose from existing options or create a new category.

  6. Browse through the list of Available Definitions (right half of Initiative definition page) and select the policy definition(s) you would like to add to this initiative. For the Get secure initiative, add the following built-in policy definitions by clicking the + next to the policy definition information or clicking a policy definition row and then the + Add option in the details page:

    • Require SQL Server version 12.0
    • [Preview]: Monitor unprotected web applications in Security Center.
    • [Preview]: Monitor permissive network across in Security Center.
    • [Preview]: Monitor possible app Whitelisting in Security Center.
    • [Preview]: Monitor unencrypted VM Disks in Security Center.

    After selecting the policy definition from the list, it's added under Policies and Parameters.

    Initiative definitions

  7. If a policy definition being added to the initiative has parameters, they're shown under the policy name in the Policies and Parameters area. The value can be set to either 'Set value' (hard coded for all assignments of this initiative) or 'Use Initiative Parameter' (set during each initiative assignment). If 'Set value' is selected, the drown-down to the right of Values allows entering or selecting the value(s). If 'Use Initiative Parameter' is selected, a new Initiative parameters section is displayed allowing you to define the parameter that is set during initiative assignment. The allowed values on this initiative parameter can further restrict what may be set during initiative assignment.

    Initiative definition parameters

    Note

    In the case of some strongType parameters, the list of values cannot be automatically determined. In these cases, an ellipsis appears to the right of the parameter row. Clicking it opens the 'Parameter scope (<parameter name>)' page. On this page, select the subscription to use for providing the value options. This parameter scope is only used during creation of the initiative definition and has no impact on policy evaluation or the scope of the initiative when assigned.

  8. Click Save.

Assign an initiative definition

  1. Select Definitions under Authoring in the left side of the Azure Policy page.

  2. Locate the Get Secure initiative definition you previously created and click it. Select Assign at the top of the page to open to the Get Secure: Assign initiative page.

    Assign a definition

    You can also right-click on the selected row or left-click on the ellipsis at the end of the row for a contextual menu. Then select Assign.

    Right-click a row

  3. Fill out the Get Secure: Assign Initiative page by entering the following example information. You can use your own information.

    • Scope: The management group or subscription you saved the initiative to becomes the default. You can change scope to assign the initiative to a subscription or resource group within the save location.
    • Exclusions: Configure any resources within the scope to prevent the initiative assignment from being applied to them.
    • Initiative definition and Assignment name: Get Secure (pre-populated as name of initiative being assigned).
    • Description: This initiative assignment is tailored to enforce this group of policy definitions.
    • Assigned by: Automatically filled based on who is logged in. This field is optional, so custom values can be entered.
  4. Leave Create a Managed Identity unchecked. This box must be checked when the policy or initiative being assigned includes a policy with the deployIfNotExists effect. As the policy used for this tutorial doesn't, leave it blank. For more information, see managed identities and how remediation security works.

  5. Click Assign.

Check initial compliance

  1. Select Compliance in the left side of the Azure Policy page.

  2. Locate the Get Source initiative. It's likely still in Compliance state of Not started. Click on the initiative to get full details on the progress of the assignment.

    Compliance - not started

  3. Once the initiative assignment has been completed, the compliance page is updated with the Compliance state of Compliant.

    Compliance - compliant

  4. Clicking on any policy on the initiative compliance page opens the compliance details page for the policy. This page provides details at the resource level for compliance.

Exempt a non-compliant or denied resource using Exclusion

Following the example above, after assigning the policy definition to require SQL server version 12.0, a SQL server created with any version other 12.0 would get denied. In this section, you walk through resolving a denied request to create a SQL server by creating an exclusion on a single resource group. The exclusion prevents enforcement of the policy (or initiative) on that resource. In the following example, any SQL server version is allowed in a single resource group. An exclusion can apply to a subscription, resource group, or you can narrow the exclusion to individual resources.

A deployment prevented by an assigned policy or initiative can be viewed in two locations:

  • On the resource group targeted by the deployment: Select Deployments in the left side of the page, then and click on the Deployment Name of the failed deployment. The resource that was denied is listed with a status of Forbidden. To determine the policy or initiative and assignment that denied the resource, click Failed. Click here for details -> on the Deployment Overview page. A window opens on the right side of the page with the error information. Under Error Details are the GUIDs of the related policy objects.

    Deployment denied by policy assignment

  • On the Azure Policy page: Select Compliance in the left side of the page and click on the Require SQL Server version 12.0 policy. On the page that opens, you would see an increase in the Deny count. Under the Events tab, you would also see who tried the deployment that was denied by the policy.

    Compliance overview of an assigned policy

In this example, Trent Baker, one of Contoso's Sr. Virtualization specialists, was doing required work. We need to grant Trent an exception, but we don't want the non-version 12.0 SQL servers in just any resource group. We've created a new resource group, SQLServers_Excluded and will now grant it an exception to this policy assignment.

Update assignment with exclusion

  1. Select Assignments under Authoring in the left side of the Azure Policy page.

  2. Browse through all policy assignments and open the Require SQL Server version 12.0 assignment.

  3. Set the Exclusion by clicking the ellipsis and selecting the resource group to exclude, SQLServers_Excluded in this example.

    Request exclusion

    Note

    Depending on the policy and its effect, the exclusion could also be granted to specific resources within a resource group inside the scope of the assignment. As a Deny effect was used in this tutorial, it would not make sense to set the exclusion on a specific resource that already exists.

  4. Click Select and then click Save.

In this section, you resolved the denied request by creating an exclusion on a single resource group.

Clean up resources

If you're done working with resources from this tutorial, use the following steps to delete any of the assignments or definitions created above:

  1. Select Definitions (or Assignments if you're trying to delete an assignment) under Authoring in the left side of the Azure Policy page.

  2. Search for the new initiative or policy definition (or assignment) you want to remove.

  3. Right-click the row or select the ellipses at the end of the definition (or assignment), and select Delete definition (or Delete assignment).

Next steps

In this tutorial, you successfully accomplished the following tasks:

  • Assigned a policy to enforce a condition for resources you create in the future
  • Created and assign an initiative definition to track compliance for multiple resources
  • Resolved a non-compliant or denied resource
  • Implemented a new policy across an organization

To learn more about the structures of policy definitions, look at this article: